In the frst edition of this series, I covered imitations, and Designer Brand names. Today, I want to cover another two very important ways to spend your eyewear money where it counts: Frame materials and ‘Known’ brands.
This is a topic I could write about for hours! These days there are almost an infinate list of materials being used to make eyewear. From the classics to the unique, the metals to woven bamboo, almost nothing is off limits! I’m going to highlight a few of the most common materials you will see in stores and point out exactly what you need to know about each.
Nickel-Alloy – This is one of the most common metals used in eyewear, are easily the most popular. Not because customers look for it specifically, but because they are the most affordable and easily sourced. There are hardly any design or colour restrictions, it works well with most lens types and, provided you have a good technician at your practice, can be adjusted to fit different faces easily, without damaging the design. The downside to this material is that if you have an allergy to alloy, you’re going to have problems. Also, if the frame gets bent, the joints impacted will always be a little weaker after repair.
Titanium – Titanium is a lighter weight material, is great for people with sensitivity issues on their nose, or anyone that has a nickel allergy; Titanium is hypo-allergenic. It is very similar to the above description, although is lighter in weight, a lot more durable and therefor more expensive. This however, is one area that is worth investing in, if you need to. For anyone that has skin sensitivities or weight issues on the bridge of their nose, paying extra for titanium is going to be worth it in the long run. While there are some limitations on Titanium in terms of design, if you’re after a minimalist classic look you will find a lot to choose from. Designers are branching out with it as a material these days too, trying to push the traditional limits to create interesting pieces made in a more ‘skin’ friendly’ material.
Cellulose Acetate – The highest quality and best performing material you will find frames made from. With a huge variety of colours, and patterns this is where you will find the most volume in quality optical frames. Made mostly from cotton linters, this material is lightweight, durable and will last longer than any of the other options on this blog – provided you don’t run over them ! Cellulose Acetate frames again range widely in their pricing, but this really does come down to the branding, how much detail has gone into the construction of the frame design, as well as the development of the acetate. If it is a mass produced colour or pattern, or if it has been made uniquely for the brand, you will see a higher asking price.
Plastic injection-molded – This is what you need to be aware of. Some cheaper – but not all – brands tend to offer frames which look like an acetate, but don’t perform nearly as well. Plastic injection-molded frames may look similar to an acetate on the shelf, and feel extremely light weight on but that’s where the fun stops. This material is used because its easy to mass produce frames from. Issues include colour fading from sun exposure, the material becoming brittle and breaking, and its not easily adjustable. While the price may be more favorable than some other options, there are still many brands offering basic acetate quality frames in independent practices that are far better in quality than these, for the same or similar price. This is one area worth asking questions about and knowing what you’re being sold.
Known Brands vs …Who?
As we covered recently in #1 in this blog series, Celebrity and/or brand names hardly mean a thing when it comes to optics. If you’re in need of some new frames, and want quality without the brand name price tag, ALWAYS ask your optical dispenser (optician) what they can recommend. Over half of our industry in Australia is made up from ‘brands’ most people never would have heard of before. Why? Because these designers are dedicated…er obsessed with eyewear. They don’t dip their hand into many different fashion avenues or appear on TV shows to gain recognition, they simply want to create beautiful and FUNCTIONAL eyewear! Your local independent Optometrist is sure to stock some of these brands and most of the time they will be the frames you cherish for years and years because they’re designed by people that understand optics. Its like buying a hearing aide from Picasso – what would he know about it? So why buy Optical frames made by Alex Perry?
As always, the best way to ensure you’re not throwing your money away is to shop local, and ask questions. After all, you’re shopping for your eyes with your money. If the person you’re asking can’t (or won’t) answer with the information you’re after, that’s a good indication that your money is all that matters, not the health of your eyes or the investment in your eyecare.
Next up in this series, I explore the pro’s and con’s of re-using old optical frames.
Until then, protect your peepers!